Steven A. Bagen | June 1, 2023 | Personal Injury
You can hold numerous individuals, businesses, or entities liable for injuries you suffered in a fall on someone else’s property (what lawyers refer to as a slip-and-fall accident). Property owners, tenants, and managers frequently bear liability. So do insurance companies. But every case differs, and it takes the analysis of an experienced slip-and-fall lawyer to identify everyone who might owe you compensation.
Here’s an overview of liability in slip and fall accident claims and the role a lawyer can play in recovering maximum monetary damages for you.
Overview of Slip and Fall Accidents
Lawyers use the term slip and fall to refer to any incident in which:
- You fell and got hurt;
- At a residential, commercial, or public property, you don’t own;
- Because of an unreasonably dangerous condition on that property.
You don’t actually have to slip before falling to have a slip-and-fall accident. Any fall can qualify, whether preceded by slipping, tripping, stumbling, or losing your balance some other way.
Slip and fall accidents can happen anywhere. And a virtually limitless array of property hazards can cause them. According to the National Floor Safety Institute (NFSI), more than one million Americans seek medical treatment annually for slip and fall injuries.
Common examples of slip and fall incidents include:
- Slipping on a wet floor;
- Tripping on cracked pavement or tiles;
- Misstepping on uneven or poorly lighted stairs;
- Losing your balance when a handrail gives way;
- Stumbling on a pothole or loose gravel.
The most reliable way to find out if you have a slip-and-fall claim is to consult an experienced lawyer. In a free consultation, an attorney can evaluate your situation and determine whether someone is liable to you for damages.
Liability for a Slip and Fall
Anyone whose decisions, actions, or inaction exposed you to the unreasonable hazard that caused your fall could face liability for your losses. Others who must answer for an at-fault party’s conduct, like motorcycle insurance companies, could share that liability or bear it entirely. A slip-and-fall lawyer’s job is to evaluate the evidence in your case to determine who should have financial responsibility for your losses.
Liability means that you can, if necessary, sue a party in court for damages arising from your fall. If you were to prevail in a lawsuit, you could collect compensation from a liable party directly or from their liability insurance carrier (assuming they have one). You may also have the right to collect payment from the insurance you purchased that covers some of your losses.
Liability of Property Owners, Tenants, and Managers
Property owners, tenants, and managers frequently face liability for slip and fall accidents. By law, those parties often have a legal duty to take reasonable steps to ensure the safety of guests, customers, and other property visitors.
For example, they may need to:
- Frequently inspect the property to identify safety hazards;
- Promptly repair a hazard or prevent access to it; or
- Alert visitors to dangerous conditions by posting signs or giving verbal warnings.
Anyone who owes, rents, or manages property could face liability for your slip and fall injuries. That includes individuals, corporations, and public entities like municipal governments and state agencies.
Liability of Others
Owners and others in control of a property aren’t the only ones who may owe damages for a slip and fall victim’s injuries. Someone who lacks any connection to a property could nevertheless engage in misconduct that leads to a fall there and makes them liable.
- Another visitor on the property could recklessly or intentionally push you and cause you to fall;
- A contractor working on the property could carelessly create a temporary fall hazard that trips you up; or
- Defective products or materials at a property could fail to function as intended, leading to your fall and making the product’s manufacturer liable for your losses.
These are just a few examples. The best way to find out who might be liable for your slip and fall is to hire an experienced attorney as soon as possible. While the evidence is fresh, an attorney can investigate what happened and identify everyone who could owe you compensation.
A lawyer can also analyze any insurance policies that may cover your losses to determine if you have a claim under them and, if so, for how much. Many parties at-fault for a slip and fall may carry liability insurance to cover your losses.
For example, businesses commonly carry commercial liability insurance, and many people purchase homeowners or renters liability insurance to cover harm suffered by visitors to their homes.
An attorney may advise that you have the right to seek compensation directly from those insurers by filing what’s known as a third-party claim (which an attorney can also prepare and pursue on your behalf).
You may also carry insurance that protects you from some of the financial impacts of a slip and fall accident. Health and long-term disability insurance, for example, can defray some of your expenses.
An experienced lawyer can review your insurance coverage and pursue claims on your behalf if necessary. If a lawyer also succeeds in holding others liable for your injury, you may need to reimburse your insurer for any compensation they paid or give them the right to pursue the liable party in your name. A lawyer can handle that process, too.
How the Type of Property Visitor You Were Could Affect Your Claim
In some states, the law recognizes several distinct categories of visitors to a property, each with different rights to expect a property owner, tenant, or manager to ensure their safety. Not all states observe these classifications. But in those that do, a lawyer may need to evaluate the type of visitor you were to determine who might owe you compensation for your fall-related losses.
In the states that distinguish between types of property visitors, the categories are:
- Trespassers. Property owners don’t have a legal obligation to ensure the safety of people who come onto their properties illegally, but they are required to avoid setting traps or luring trespassers to their property to injure them.
- Licensees. A licensee is someone who enters a property for their own benefit, with the express or implied permission of the property owner, like a party guest. Property owners aren’t required to inspect their premises for hazards before a licensee enters, but they must promptly fix or warn licensees about any known dangers.
- Invitees. An invitee is someone welcomed onto a property for the owner’s or public’s benefit, like a customer at a store or a visitor to a public park. Property owners owe the highest duty of care to an invitee, which includes inspecting their premises for dangers, fixing known dangers, and giving adequate warnings.
- Children. Property owners must take reasonable steps to prevent children’s access to potentially dangerous property features, regardless of whether children have the owner’s permission to be there.
As discussed, not all states follow these distinctions. And even in the states that do, they only govern the liability of property owners and others who control premises. They do not necessarily affect the liability of other parties who may have caused your fall.
An experienced slip and fall lawyer will know whether they apply in your case and, if so, how to analyze your rights to seek compensation for your fall-related injuries.
Damages You Could Recover for a Slip and Fall
You may have the right to receive significant compensation for the physical, emotional, and financial harm you suffered when you fell on someone else’s property.
Your recoverable damages may include payment for your:
- Medical expenses for fall-related injuries and any resulting health complications;
- Out-of-pocket costs for replacement services to help you manage your life while healing or living with your injuries;
- Lost earnings and job benefits due to missing work while healing;
- Diminished future income and opportunities if a fall left you temporarily or permanently disabled;
- Physical pain and discomfort from your injury or medical treatments;
- Mental health difficulties stemming from the fall or your injuries;
- Diminished quality or enjoyment of life.
Sometimes, slip and fall accidents justify an additional award of punitive damages as punishment for the at-fault party’s extreme or intentional misconduct that caused your fall. Consult an experienced slip and fall lawyer today to learn about the damages you could claim.
Steps to Protect Your Slip and Fall Claim
The fact that someone could be liable for your slip and fall accident doesn’t guarantee you’ll receive compensation. If you’re not careful, your actions after falling and getting hurt can undermine your rights. By following the steps below, however, you can protect your ability to recover compensation from a liable party.
Seek Immediate Medical Care
Get medical treatment immediately for injuries you suffered in a fall, even if you think they’re minor. Do not wait for your condition to worsen. The aches and pains from a fall could signify substantial trauma requiring prompt medical attention.
By going to the doctor, you protect not just your health but also your legal rights. Medical records serve as valuable evidence to prove your damages. And getting treatment ensures no one will blame you for injuries.
Notify Someone In Charge
Because property owners, tenants, and managers frequently face liability for a slip and fall, it can be important to alert them immediately about what happened to you. By doing so, you ensure they can’t claim to have been ignorant of your fall or the dangerous conditions that caused it. And the steps they take to remedy any hazard can bolster your case that they have liability for your losses.
Notifying someone in charge can be especially important if you fall in a building or at a place owned by the government. Holding the government liable for a slip and fall typically requires giving prompt notification of your injury. If you wait too long to alert officials about what happened, you could lose your right to seek compensation.
Hire a Lawyer
It’s never too early to hire a lawyer after you fall and get hurt on someone else’s premises. The sooner you have an experienced attorney representing you, the better your odds of locating and preserving evidence to prove liability, and the higher your chances of securing payment for your losses.
Hiring a lawyer is affordable for everyone. Slip and fall attorneys offer a free case evaluation to fall victims and their loved ones. They also routinely represent clients on contingency, which means they only get paid if they get you results.
Talk to a Lawyer Before Accepting Money or Payments In-Kind
A party in charge of the property where you fell may offer you a quick cash payment or other forms of compensation like a free meal, room stay, or store credit. Think twice before accepting it. Agreeing to an offer that seems like good customer service can jeopardize your rights by waiving your rights to seek additional damages. Before accepting any money or item of value, consult a lawyer about your rights.
Similarly, a liability insurance company representing an at-fault property owner or another party could contact you and offer to settle your anticipated slip and fall claim. Do not agree to their proposal or sign anything without first speaking with an experienced attorney. The offers insurance companies make to unrepresented fall victims like you rarely come close to appropriately valuing your claim.
A skilled slip-and-fall lawyer can negotiate with an insurer for you and ensure you receive maximum compensation.
Contact a Knowledgeable Slip and Fall Lawyer Today
One or several individuals, businesses, or entities could be liable for the damages you suffered in a slip and fall accident. To obtain compensation from them, you may have the option of pursuing informal negotiations, submitting an insurance claim, or suing in court.
An experienced accident Injury lawyer in Gainesville can handle every step in getting you paid for your losses. To learn more, contact one today for a free case evaluation.